Monday, May 28, 2018

Punkturis Wins!

I don't normally dive into real world politics on the blog, but an election took place on Saturday I thought might interest EVE Online players. Iceland held its municipal elections, and in the capital city of Reykjavik, the Independence Party led the way by winning 8 seats.

Why should EVE players care? Because in Iceland, the voters vote for a political party's list of candidates, which are then distributed proportionally. And the sixth candidate on the list of the Independence Party was Katrín Atladóttir.

"In their natural habitat, programmers are nocturnal creatures that prefer to be left undisturbed"

Katrín Atladóttir is better known to EVE players as CCP Punkturis. Katrin's last day at CCP was 30 April, or a few weeks before the election. Following on the heels of CCP Seagull announcing she was leaving CCP on 26 April, some decided that CCP was doomed and everyone was leaving a sinking ship. But for Katrin, a new career in politics awaits. Now, her new office is in Reykjavik's city hall.

Friday, May 25, 2018

EVE Online's Unique Selling Point: Inventory Space


CCP did not design EVE Online with the free-to-play business model in mind. Playing other MMORPGs always reminds me of EVE’s unique selling point. The feature that makes EVE unique is not its player-run economy, time-based training system, harsh death penalty, or single-shard nature. No, other games have many, if not all, of those features. Instead, what makes EVE unique is the nearly unlimited inventory space for each character. I don’t know of any game that allows players to hoard as many items as EVE. With the fall of the subscription system for MMORPGs, I doubt we ever will again.

The inspiration for this post is my third attempt to play Elder Scrolls Online. Most level-based games have a dead spot about half-way toward the level cap, as if one team of designers started building the game from level 1 upwards while a second team builds the game from the level cap down. Someplace in the middle is a dead spot where the two teams meet and don’t quite mesh the content together smoothly. A player just must grind through with the hopes the game is not the second coming of Age of Conan and the blight that occurred after leaving Tortage. Unfortunately, in ESO I hit the dead spot around level 8 and have yet to get past level 16. In my current playthrough, I am at level 12 and am ready to throw my keyboard out the window.

Perhaps my biggest pain point in the latest attempt to hit level 50 is lack of inventory space. At level 8, I not only had full bags, but a full bank as well. I desperately needed to make some bags, but I didn’t have the ability. Since I fully intend to hit level 50, even if it kills me, I broke down and spent $40 for a three-month subscription.

Paying money makes life so much easier in ESO. The first benefit is subscribers (called ESO Plus membership) receive double the bank space as those who just choose to buy the game and not subscribe. The difference between 70 and 140 bank slots is huge. On top of that, subscribers get access to a special bag that holds all of a character’s crafting materials. My bank situation went from using all 70 slots to only using 14 out of 140 inventory slots. I’m used to paying for extra bank slots with real money, but I never experienced such a change in a game like I did when I subscribed to ESO on Saturday.

The purchase of inventory space, a staple of games with cash shops, is unneeded in EVE. Players can store 1000 stacks of items in any station. But that is just the beginning. Players can then purchase containers, place them in the station, and then fill up the containers with additional items up to the volume capacity of the containers. Notice I stated items above. Ships do not count as items and have their own storage space. I assume that the capacity is 1000 ships, although I have never run into the cap.

Did I mention that, unlike most games, players in EVE do not access a global inventory system? While inconvenient if the shiny module wanted for a ship fit is 60 systems away, EVE's inventory system means players can store 1000 stacks of items in each stations. As an example of how much inventory space is available to new players, let's use the system of Lustrevik. Located two jumps away from one of the Minmatar starter systems in the Heimatar region, the system is home to 9 NPC-owned stations. Nine stations represents 9000 inventory slots, not including ship storage. And if 9000 inventory slots is not enough, a player can travel to the next door system of Eystur which contains 6 NPC-owned stations and an additional 6000 inventory slots. And did I mention that I have yet to run into a stacking limit for things like ore and minerals? Those used to limits of 100 or 200 item stacks will find the ability to have a stack contain one million items mind blowing.

EVE Online is a pack rat's dream game. While most games force a constant need for inventory management on players, CCP took that worry away. Instead of trying to keep space open for the next shiny drop, players in EVE have the challenge of trying to keep track of all their stuff. I wish I could find another game with the same design mindset, but I don't think modern business models will ever again allow for the discarding of such a basic source of sales from players. Which, to my mind, is a shame.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Rewards Of Reaching Level 500 In Project Discovery

On Saturday I finally reached level 500 in Project Discovery, EVE Online’s mini-game involving searching for exoplanets in the real universe. I have not used any of the blueprint copies given out as rewards for taking part in the citizen science project, but now is a good time to review if the journey was worth the rewards.

First, how much effort did I put into reaching level 500? I didn’t keep close track of time but looking at my wallet transactions shows I spent approximately 115 hours over the course of 156 days, or an average of 45 minutes a day. Overall, I managed to do over 4 levels an hour. I guess I should add that for at least the last 400 levels I received the maximum reward for each pattern evaluated due to my accuracy rate. When I reached level 500, my accuracy rating was 99%. I would expect the effort to take longer with lower ratings.

The rewards for playing Project Discovery fall in three principal areas. The first type is the ISK reward received for evaluating a pattern. These rewards are based on the player’s accuracy rating, with a maximum payout of 99,000 ISK for a player with a rating a little over 98%. The reward is deposited into the player’s wallet every 5 minutes. At level 500, I had collected a total just over 1.5 billion ISK in Project Discovery rewards.

The second type of reward occurs with the completion of each level. For the first 24 levels, players receive an Exoplanets SKIN, with the reward increasing to 2 SKINs per level at level 26. Exoplanet SKINs exist for each ship built by the four main NPC factions (Amarr, Caldari, Gallente, Minmatar). Overall, I received 975 SKINs (227 unique) worth 560 million ISK at the time I completed level 500 according to the price evaluator in my hanger.

Project Discovery also grants rewards for reaching certain levels. These rewards range from clothing (including a hat) to CONCORD ship skins to 1-run BPCs for the Pacifier, Enforcer, and Marshal. The clothing only was valued at 44 million ISK. The Pacifier and Enforcer SKINs rewarded for reaching levels 75 and 150 only were worth 9 million ISK. The blueprint copies of the Pacifier (125 million ISK) and Enforcer (275 million ISK) brought in more, but weren't amazing. The big money is the Marshal BPC. Looking on the contract market, the blueprint copy brings in a little over 7 billion ISK.

I don't plan on liquidating everything I acquired from playing the Project Discovery mini-game. My next steps are to inject the SKINs into my two main characters and then work on building the CONCORD ships. But I figured that people solely interested in ISK might want to know the possible rewards for reaching level 500. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Catching Up On Things


Sometimes life gets in the way of blogging. Okay, sometimes playing video games takes precedence over writing. But writing about video games requires playing them, right? Still, real life does get in the way. Instead of composing four or five posts, this post will have to do.

The real-world project, apart from work, which will cut into my gaming time is I decided to get serious about learning Python. I signed up for an online course that is part of a three-course series that leads to a certificate that will look good on my resume/CV/LinkedIn page. My hobbies often spur me to learn about subjects I then translate into work skills. Why not do it one more time?

One doesn’t need to know a scripting language to do the types of economic analysis seen on the blog, though. My latest EVE-related project involves creating my own price indexes to help evaluate changes CCP makes to the game. On Saturday I finally created a Google sheet that recreates the Consumer Price Index found in some of the older Monthly Economic Reports. I tried using the MER released in April, but the file was missing information about tech 3 items. Now I just need to learn how to make decent looking graphs in one of the Google programs, so I don’t need to export the results into Excel.

I hear a lot of hype surrounding a game coming to Steam this month called Bless Online. Not seeing the game released yet, and wanting to play something with a humanoid avatar, I decided to update a game I hadn’t played in two years, Elder Scrolls Online. For some reason I woke up at 3:30am Sunday morning and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I created a new character and started playing. I think I played 4-5 hours, which I never did before. I heard the game changed over the years, and so far, I think for the better. I’m still on the newbie island, and every time I create a character, I never reach level 20. With my goals in EVE, the same fate likely awaits my new character as well.

Returning to EVE, I forgot about the big 15th year anniversary. Hard to believe with the latest event putting a beacon in every system I travel through, but after awhile all beacons look alike. I only managed to fill my Procurer’s ore hold with hedbergite once before company arrived in system Saturday night. The rest of the time I spent playing Project Discovery. I’m currently on pace to reach my goal of obtaining the Marshall blueprint copy before the launch of Into the Abyss on 29 May.

Finally, I did a little work on my CSM Google site, CSMWire, adding the latest interviews of Xenuria, Mawderator, and Sullen Decimus conducted by Kael Decadence of The Mind Clash Podcast. Just in time, too, as CCP Guard a dev blog announcing the dates of the CSM 13 election as 4-11 June. CCP Guard was kind enough to link to CSM Wire in the dev blog, which means I should see some traffic coming soon. I also need to watch social media and the official forums for candidate activity for the next month, so I know when to update the site.

Hopefully I can tear myself away from the class work and play some video games. Last night I did all the homework for the week, but I discovered I enjoyed working with python. I may need to resist the urge to race ahead so I can work on other things.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Outside Abyssal Space, Life Continues


A lot of people seem intrigued by the new Abyssal deadspace zones CCP is introducing to EVE Online in the Into the Abyss expansion coming on 29 May. Perhaps the reason is the DDoS attacks last week only hit Tranquility, so players went and took a peak at what is on the test cluster. Or maybe the usual suspects just like to whine about change. I try to keep an open mind, which is why I will test on Singularity over the coming weeks. I did run a site Sunday night. If we learn more from failure than success, I am a lot smarter player now than before.

I only ran one site because life doesn’t stop on Tranquility, the only shard that counts. I have goals to achieve, deadlines to meet, and ships to build. My overarching goal is to get myself back to playing mostly in low sec, although I may wind up doing some ninja mining in w-space to meet my shipbuilding goals. I completed one of my key goals, access to a second low sec factory station. Access is probably the wrong word. To minimize build costs, I only build in NPC factory stations in which I have standings with the NPC corp of 6.67 or greater. I performed the standings grind in 8 days by running mining missions in low sec. I know, apart from the Loki that dropped in to try to gank me, pretty boring stuff. As a bonus, I did pull in over 160 thousand loyalty points, two +4 learning implants, and some intelligence on the residents of the area.

With the factory situation set, my next step was setting up pings in the new mining system. I’m a little less risk averse in my old age and now use an interceptor to set up perches and other points so I can stay aligned while I mine. While the bookmarks I have around each system work well so far, I need to set up one or two more using the interceptor around each asteroid belt, then I can settle down and bookmark cosmic signatures for additional spots. Give me a couple of months and I’ll have a home-field edge when avoiding a gank attempt.

Of course, mining is pointless if I don’t have a use for all the ore I mine. I usually come up with a ridiculous battleship to build, and this year’s effort is constructing a Marshal.  Technically I began the project in early December, but the plan was to have a CONCORD battleship sitting in my hanger by the end of 2018. I’m a little ahead of my goal as Wandering Rose is currently at level 458 in Project Discovery, only 42 levels away from receiving the blueprint copy. The last time I checked, she had earned over 1.1 billion ISK in Project Discovery rewards which should pay not only for the tech 2 materials needed to build the battleship, but hopefully the Pacifier and Enforcer as well.

Don’t get me wrong. I probably will spend more than a few hours on Singularity over the next few weeks, and perhaps even months, researching the new Triglavian content and its evolution. But for now, I have a few billion ISK worth of ships to build and I want to finish up that task before diving into the new content.